Andy Himmel is on a tear. In just 10 years, the methodical, meticulous restaurateur has expanded his Latin-themed portfolio from one unit to eight locations and two separate concepts. This spring, he and his team will expand again, this time opening a BOMBA Tacos & Rum
at the busy corner of Cedar and Richmond roads. The La Place location will be that concept’s third, joining a two-year-old shop in Rocky River and a one-year-old location in Fairlawn. Those restaurants, of course, join six separate Paladar Latin Kitchens
spread across four states.
“I grew up in Beachwood,” Himmel explains. “I have been coming to this location my entire life, so the opportunity for me to build out this cool concept, to help change something that we’ve all seen for the past 30, 40 years, I think it’s pretty exciting.”
Himmel confesses that Cooker, which stood on this very spot (and was later replaced by Sushi Rock), was one of his favorite restaurants growing up. He’s watched – as the son of an operator (dad owned the famous jazz club Boarding House), as a diner, and as an operator himself – as the entire food service industry continues to shift and change before his very eyes. After his first restaurant, Boulevard Blue on Larchmere, came and went, Himmel shifted his focus to Paladar Latin Kitchen, which opened at Eton Chagrin Boulevard a healthy 10 years ago.
Like the BOMBA restaurants in River and Fairlawn, this one will feature Latin-themed snacks and starters, chef-driven tacos and a massive rum list set inside a smartly designed space outfitted with high-end finishes. The restaurant will occupy the corner spot, facing Cedar, in the portion of the shopping mall that was demolished and rebuilt. At 3,800-square-feet, this one is smaller than the first two, but it gains back some of that space by utilizing a shared restroom corridor with Hello Bistro, which will be Ohio’s first location of that popular Pittsburgh-based concept. Seating capacity will run around 65 in the dining room and an additional 50 in the bar/lounge area.
“This location is another opportunity to learn from what we’ve done at the first two,” Himmel adds. “We’re working aggressively to revamp the restaurant layout to make it more conducive to things like hanging out in the bar and carry-out business.”
Himmel notes that “without even trying,” BOMBA’s carry-out business has grown 60 percent year-over-year. The new spot will have an area dedicated to that activity to facilitate easy pick-up. Over the years, the company has switched to all hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and wild caught seafood. The menu now offers fewer regular tacos (down from 18 to around a dozen), leaving room for more seasonal tacos.
In the near future, says Himmel, diners can look forward to continued technological advancements, as long as they don’t come at the expense of the diner’s enjoyment. Management hopes to implement a mobile order and pay system, for example, to further ease the carry-out process.
“We’re going to continue to push the technology envelope,” the owner says. “I believe technology has a place in full-service that has not been utilized yet – but not in any ways that will encroach on the dining experience.”
As for the original Paladar location, Himmel says it’s going nowhere. Unlike some of his contemporaries, who are electing to trade in their original locations for a spot at some shiny new suburban development, Himmel is choosing to double-down on his.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that you don’t move your flagship, no matter what,” he says. “Next year we’ll do a renovation of the space. I want the unit to continue being one of our best spots like it is now. Our clientele there is so loyal.”
As for possible future BOMBA units, Himmel says, “We’re absolutely always looking for new locations because you can’t just start and stop that process.”